May 30, 2017: A turning Point for Biafra and Nigeria

May 30th, 2017 marked a turning point in the agitation for the restoration of Biafran Republic. Nigerian police and army were out in full force throughout the five Southeastern States of Anambra, Abia, Ebony, Enugu and Imo looking for the alleged trouble makers, namely members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Biafra Independent Movement (BIM). The three organizations are the main groups pushing for Biafran Independence. The federal Government expected members of these organizations to be on the street intimidating and harassing law-abiding citizens in those states to comply with their sit-at-home day declaration. To the surprise of the federal government and some skeptics, members of these groups are no-where to be seen in any of the states. Rather, what happened is that the residents of the five states stayed home not due to intimidation or harassment but in support of the sit-at-home directive which they see as a silent protest of injustice and marginalization that has been meted out to the Igbos and other members of former Biafran states. The Sit-at-home protest was an unqualified success in the five southeastern states and some parts of Delta, Cross Rivers, Rivers and Bayelsa state. Their contention is that Nigeria is not working and unlikely to work in the future especially for Igbos that has been systematically discriminated against since the end of the civil war. They contend that their sons and daughters see no hope in the present Nigeria state. That their children cannot aspire to be Nigerian president or Inspector General of Police etc. in an unjust nation like Nigeria.

What has caught my attention for a while now is how some people I regard as very educated and politically aware are gradually buying into Biafran restoration. It has taken a life of its own. Some prominent Igbos are secretly backing the effort but will not dare to admit it in public. Those prominent Igbos are equally advising and in some cases warning these groups to take it easy. Any country that has been unable to find peace and cohesion within it border after 47 years of a brutal civil war is in trouble. Something is seriously wrong. After nations go through civil war, maximum efforts are made to incorporate and integrate the defeated side into the society, and in some cases the victor goes the extra mile to make sure that the defeated side are fully integrated into the government structure at all levels. That was not the case with Biafra. United States went through brutal civil war and the northern states of the country who won the war embraced and integrated the southern states who lost. The Southerners quickly won the presidency which helped to fully integrate the south and gave them a sense of belonging in American nation. The Igbos has been marginalized and treated as a defeated and conquered entity and was expected to take all sorts of insult for the for-seeable future. The presidency of the country keeps passing back and forth between the north and Southwest. The federal government only started making effort to compensate Niger-Delta states with additional oil derivation fund and election of one of their son as president after some Niger-Delta residents took up arms and started destroying federal oil facilities when they decided that they will no longer take the abuse and marginalization of their people. That gesture did help to calm the instability in the Niger-Delta. The Igbos are hard-working, industrious and very proud people and should not have been expected to take the injustice and marginalization forever. Time is running out for Nigeria. Outside world will not stomach brutal crackdown of the Igbos or other ethnic groups who share their view of leaving Nigerian federation, especially when some of the groups who are pushing for self-determination have vowed not to use violence.

Arrest and detention of Nnamdi Kanu is the worst mistake the federal government has made so far. Nnamdi Kanu was an unknown figure few years ago until his detention. Now, he is a leader, thanks to the federal law enforcement authority. He now thinks that he has been proven right that all Igbos are behind his cause for restoration of Biafran Republic.

The next step for these groups spearheading restoration of Biafra is not clear. Are these groups going to compel Igbos in the entire five Southeastern states not to hold any election? If so, are there going to enforce it through intimidation which will definitely backfire? Are there going to start running for federal offices they said they do not want to be part of? There is no consensus among the Igbos for restoration of Biafra for the time being. Things have to get worse than it is now for that consensus to form. A lot of Igbos are weighing the political and economic implication of such move. Igbos are not worried about another civil war since most Igbos believe independence could eventually be achieved peacefully. Economic implication of such move is what Igbos are concerned about more than anything else.

What will the exit of Igbos mean for Nigeria? I am pretty sure that exit of the Igbos from Nigerian federation will lead to the dissolution of Nigerian federation just like the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Other ethnic groups will certainly leave Nigeria federation along with Igbos. Some Parts of the South South region may opt to join Biafra, but the rest especially the areas with oil deposit may opt to become separate countries with very small population and huge oil reserve just like some middle eastern states such as Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei etc. They may not want to share their oil wealth with anybody. The Yoruba’s will likely leave Nigerian federation and form Oduduwa Republic if South South States go their own way or join Southeast. It is also likely that the middle belt will not opt to stay with the Northeast and northwest. The Igbos will likely succeed in an independent Biafra just like they are surviving within Nigerian federation. The Igbos should bear in mind that Biafra will comprise of only the five Southeastern states. Any other enclave or state that wants to join them will be on a voluntary basis. Nobody should be forced to join any group or country.

My take on all of this is that I do not think that dissolution of Nigerian federation is a good idea. It will not be a wise move economically for all Nigerians provided no part of the country is marginalized. Nigeria, where justice, equality, non-discrimination and non-marginalization of any group is better. Every Nigeria should be made to feel that they belong to the Nigerian federation. Nigerians will be better off economically in the long run if they stay together. Decentralization of power from the federal to states, Local Government Areas, and Township council need to happen quickly. Allowing states, Local Government Areas and Township Council to establish their own police force should happen immediately. It will give all ethnic groups a sense of belonging and keep them busy with various responsibilities. A lot of Nigerian politicians and civilians are advocating restructure of the Nigerian federation but none has clearly defined what they want Nigeria to look like in a restructured federation. Some are advocating that Nigeria go back to three to six regional governments. I do not believe that regionalism will be a panacea for what ails Nigeria. One can even argue that the division in Nigeria today was due to regional government structure we had in the past. Regionalism encouraged each region to isolate and only care for itself. Some people wants all the regions to keep resources in their own region. What will some of the states in the north and other regions of the country that only depends on oil revenue do? Why will a northerner or some bankrupt states want to stay as part of Nigerian entity if they cannot benefit from Nigerian natural resources. So, regional government with resource control will not work. Nigeria problem has a lot more to do with the character of the people that are leading and running the country. A lot of them are morally bankrupt. A lot of them are more interested in looting Nigerian treasury rather than help in making the country better for everybody.

Nigerian government cannot afford to keep Nigeria one by force of arm or brutal repression. It will not work. On the contrary, it will rather accelerate the disintegration of Nigerian federation. Nigerians will not stand for it neither will the international community. Military coup in the name of keeping Nigerian one will not work. Cooler head need to prevail and federal government must not act irrationally. Holding a country together through force of arm no longer works in the modern world. Former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia did not succeed so will Nigerian government. A better approach will be to start addressing the concerns of the aggrieved ethnic groups around the country in the National Assembly and passing relevant laws to address those issues. It may take the form of constitutional amendments. I have been a strong opponent of rotational presidency because I think it encourages mediocrity. But I will agree to rotational presidency if that is what it will take to keep Nigeria one. It is better than the dissolution of Nigerian state. We could state in the constitution that the presidency be rotated for 50 to 100 years only, before reverting back to what we have now. Nigerians will get used to democracy and free association after 50 to 100 years. I have always believed that a president coming from a particular region or ethnic group is more of a symbolic gesture and a reassurance to that region or ethnic group that they are an integral part of the federation. It does not always translate into development of the region or area that president came from. If that is the case, northern Nigeria that has held Nigerian presidency for years will be more developed than other parts of the country. Grievances of all groups must be addressed in the National Assembly and in the executive branch quickly if we are interested in a true and sincere united Nigeria.

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